About The Clinic
Here are some guitar instructional references, that I developed over the past 10 years or so. This is a blog oriented page, so the first entry is the latest. At some point, I may publish a more complete version, as this is only a sketch of an instructional guide. There is a more complete Author's Note at the bottom of the page.
About ModesApril, 2013
Modes are the simplest functions of music, in my opinion, and often the most misunderstood. Guitar books are notorious for misrepresenting the simple beauty and elegance of what it means to be ‘in a mode’. A mode is a point of view, or better put, a point of aural reference. We all know the main mode of the major scale. It's point of reference is the first note, or do (short o). Think “Sound Of Music”, do, a dear, a female dear, ra, a drop of gold sun, etc. Moving on, that's not enough to understand the mode, however. The other part, or perception, of the mode, is the way every other note sounds in relation to that note, as in do and ra, do and me, do and la, and so on. This is called Ionian mode, and there is a mode for every note the scale. The other modes are Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. But, don't worry about the names at first. Learn the sounds.
It's good to sit at a piano and do this. Play one note of the major scale, say C in a C-major scale. Let's stick with white keys. With the right hand, experiment playing all the other notes in the scale, separately at first. Now play D with the left hand, and again, play the other notes. You begin to get the sense of what modes are. Each has a different characteristic, evoking a different emotional response. After going through all the modes this way, do it again, but play a triad or 7th chord with the left hand, while experimenting with each note of the scale with the right. For example, the first chord on the left hand would be C-E-G-(B). To be thorough, repeat these exercises for the major scale, harmonic minor scale, and melodic minor scales.
The mode names are different for the minor scales, which gets to be a lot to remember. Most professional musicians know the major scale mode names, and maybe a couple of the minor scale mode names, and refer to rest by the position in the scale, i.e. 4th mode of the melodic minor, etc. I have never heard anyone talk about modes for patterned scales, whole tone and diminished, but they exist! The whole tone would have one mode, and the diminished would have only two.
Notice that this discussion has had nothing to do with finger patterns on a guitar. So when you see 7 patterns for every scale, listed in a guitar book by mode name, please keep in mind that they are just incremental ways of positioning your scale. They are not modes in and of themselves, and these tend to confuse and complicate an otherwise simple and elegant function of music.
Solo Guitar Arrangement for "True"This song, by Martin Taylor, has been very popular at my performances and amongst guitarists. It's fun to play, and has a beautiful melody. This is my interpretation. There is an example of "True" on my youtube channel.
There are places in music where semantics make things more complicated than they need to be. For example, if you build all the chords in a key (minor or major), a 6th chord never appears, yet they are found in music a lot. Turns out, there's an equivalent, naturally occurring 7th chord to explain its existence. Moreover, there are places where things line up such that a simple explanation covers a a whole lot of ground. Here are some sheets on this idea of equivalents that simplify music.
Standard and Extended Major Scale Patterns
After talking about major scale forms for reading music on the guitar, I thought it would be a good idea to include the standard, and what I think of as the extended scale patterns. As discussed in the last entry, I find these difficult to read with, but they have proven very useful for freedom in improvising and arranging on the guitar. Numerous, legendary guitarists swear by the standard five position patterns for improvising solos.
Here are the five, traditional or standard, position-based patterns. This illustration shows how the patterns overlap one another, eventually repeating (every 12 frets).
Standard Major Scale Forms
Here are the 12 fret, extended, major scale patterns that I like.
Extended Major Scale Forms
Alternate Major Scale Patterns for Reading and Transposing
Reading standard notation has long been a challenge for contemporary guitar players. There are some great methods to read classical and traditional music, but these methods often run out of steam and become frustrating to try and employ for most modern music. Having been trained on other instruments, more conducive to reading music, I have always had a desire to find a way to improve upon the old dogmas associated with reading music for the guitar. So, I have made a few observations over the years.
1) There are too many choices of position-based scale patterns, and the traditional patterns often do not fit the needed range. The ones I'm speaking of are those based on the shapes of the keys G, C, F, in first position.
2) To know a piece is to master it beyond reading it, and to make conscious choices about where to play phrases or harmonies to get the best effect. This is not what we do when sight reading or reading to learn a new piece.
3) Music that is well written for guitar is great. There is a certain comfort that we can count on. This is how we are taught in virtually all guitar method books. Unfortunately, we almost never see guitar parts as skillfully or conveniently written, as those in method books.
4) Much of time, we are reading a melody from a standard lead/vocal sheet, or something written for piano. Compared to a written vocal or piano melody, our note on the guitar is an octave higher. Worse yet, is when you are given a lead sheet, but told that the singer actually sings it in a different key. Transposing quickly becomes a necessary skill. A few times, I have played with orchestras using a "rhythm" chart, which includes various parts from the score, as an indicator of what's going on throughout the orchestra. You not only have to sight read it, but invent a guitar part in 2 or 3 passes:) So even when reading, we need big, big ears! No time to worry about scale patterns.
5) When I play single lines on the guitar, I mostly lead from lower frets on the lower strings to higher frets on the higher strings. This is what sounds good to me. Most guitarists will agree, I think. This also gives us greater range. It is difficult to get a smooth consistent tone staying within one of the standard position-oriented patterns.
So at some point I realized that, although I know all the position scale patterns across 12 frets, I often think of the 12 frets in two regions when deciding where to play something. One has the root of the key center on the 6th string, and one has the root on the 5th string. Each region extends 6 frets. When thinking in terms of reading and these regions, a light bulb came on, when I realized these two regions are shaped very similarly, unlike the hodge podge of standard scale pattern shapes, and they cover the whole 12 frets. Wow, only 2 patterns, similarly shaped that cover the whole entire 12 fret range. (Every 12 frets, the fretboard repeats itself, so if you have 12, you've got 'em all.) Their shapes are like playing in the keys of E and A in the first position. These scale patterns are not new. In fact, they're very popular with some heavy metal players, because of their 3-note per string organization I imagine, for those bullet-speed riffs.
Using these as a basis for reading has several benefits. It's mostly about easier decisions. These two patterns are organized similarly, and simply, so you don't have to reorganize your entire thought process of where the notes lie. Also, you can tranpose keys or play up an octave much easier than with the traditional patters. There is much more that can be illustrated with a video, which I will work in in the future.
Here are the two moveable scale patterns that I use for reading music.
Alternate Major Scale Forms
Three New Clinic Study Sheets
This is basic major chord information, but organized in such a way to remind us all of how basic guitar chords are organized, that is to say, where the root, 3rd, and 5th are located within the structure. The first sheet includes basic triads (3 note chord shapes). The 2nd sheet doubles one of the notes to make some very desirable 4-note voicings. You can convert these to minor chords by flatting the 3rd.
Major Chord Triads Major Chords, 4-Part
Chord substitution is one of my favorite music theory subjects for guitar. As we play guitar long enough, we stumble upon cool substitutions because of the way they sound. It's even more fun, when you have it down. Here is an introduction to substitutions. In this sheet, subtitled Simplification, I'm trying to point out how you can play less then an entire chord, which makes things easier, and often sounds better or cleaner, especially when playing with a band. This is done in all kinds of music, including jazz, rock, blues, country, classical, ..doesn't matter.
Substitutions, Part I
ArtistWorks' Fingerstyle Guitar With Martin Taylor
Joining the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy is one of the most fun and educational things you can do to improve your fingerstyle guitar playing. Learning, with Martin as an instructor, is as enlightening as it is informative. He has amazing insights into achieving a musical flow in your playing, and playing the guitar with the music you have in mind, rather than allowing the guitar to play you. If you play fingerstyle and haven't heard Martin play, you're in for a real treat!
One of the most important tools that a guitar player needs early on is a way to find notes on the guitar. With a couple of simple rules, you can find any note on the guitar. Here they are!Finding Notes Finding Notes, Part 2
7th Chord Voicings
When I was busy occupying the practice rooms in school, and trying to figure out how to incorporate good theory into my playing, I worked out a chord system, which has been tremendously valuable. Now it turns out that I'm not the only one. Some very noteworthy players use this system. Nevertheless, I have not found it succinctly stated in any book. There are pieces of it around. Here is the set of voicings for dominant 7th chords, in 3 and 4 parts. There are definitely many more chord voicings available to guitarists. However, these have the distinct qualification of being adaptable on all string combinations, and for all of the 7th type chords. Just flat the 3rd for a minor chord, or raise the 7th for a major 7th. I hope to publish the whole set someday, along with examples of their use. Until then, I hope you enjoy this sample.7th Chords in 4 parts 7th Chords in 3 parts
Website design & development provided by: Brian J. Bliss Design, Ltd.